Chargers: Dream/nightmare scenario

Yes, the start of training camps is two months away, but it’s never too early to consider the coming season. A look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Chargers in 2012.

Dream scenario (10-6): Although Philip Rivers had a very down 2011 by his fantastic track record, the Chargers still threw the ball effectively and should once again in 2012. Even though Vincent Jackson is in Tampa Bay, Antonio Gates is healthy and San Diego has enough at wide receiver, including better slot options, to allow for Rivers to do what Rivers does best: sling it all over the field, especially deep. San Diego does look to be noticeably improved in the front seven. That could pay off huge in terms of improvement against the run and pass as well as generate more big plays. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Melvin Ingram ends up being the defensive rookie of the year as a versatile and explosive difference-maker. I am still a huge fan of Rivers and I believe that Ryan Mathews can be an elite running back to mix in with a noticeably improved defense. But what is the ceiling if all of this comes together? A divisional crown certainly is a possibility, but I still think San Diego -- even if everything goes right -- would be a step below the top teams in the NFL.

Nightmare scenario (6-10): What if Mathews gets hurt? In a dream scenario, Mathews could have as strong a season as any running back in the NFL. But his injury history is very troubling, the Chargers have very little behind him and their offensive line ranks among the worst in the league right now. The offensive line could be the downfall of the entire team and could easily lead to injuries to the Chargers’ most important players, Rivers and Mathews. And Rivers must cut down on the interceptions. Also, how much do we really trust Gates to return to his previously amazing form for an entire season? Remember, the defense did take a big step backward last year, and it wasn’t all that long ago that the Chargers were unbelievably awful on special teams. What if glimmers of that ineptitude resurface? The worst-case scenario of 6-10 wouldn’t bode well for Norv Turner’s job.